Opinion

Area levees must be maintained for safety

We survived another flood although many local residents have damage to their homes. Fortunately, no lives were lost in our Valley due to rising waters.

As we go through the cleanup efforts and prepare for a winter that could find us in the same situation again, we need to refocus on the levees that channel much of the water in the Upper Valley away from our homes and businesses.

First, it has become apparent that the 205 project, the widening of the channel near Snoqualmie Falls, did have an impact on flood levels downtown. Based on having lived through floods from 1969 to the present, levels in Snoqualmie did appear lower despite higher volumes of water.

Second, the removal of the berm along the Weyerhaeuser mill site appeared to have an impact, again because levels on the north side of Snoqualmie appeared to be lower despite higher volumes of water.

But, how many of you watched the levee system anxiously, wondering if they would hold as the water rumbled through our Valley? I listened to the scanner intently throughout the ordeal and luckily found the reports of levee breaks to be false, primarily due to a lack of experience by those making the reports.

The levee system in our Valley was initiated after the flood of 1959, which many consider to be the ultimate 100-year flood. Funding through the 1960s and early 1970s also allowed for the dredging of river channels to remove sediment and other materials that would build up as a result of high water. The lack of funding for these programs and the impacts to fish habitat have all but eliminated this process.

King County Executive Ron Sims, along with his staff, have put together a plan for Flood Hazard Management. It can be found online at www.metrokc.gov. The plan is a good start at recognizing that residents in Snoqualmie Valley, and King County, need to understand the need to fund projects relative to flooding problems. The plan also recognizes that a balance is needed between fish habitat and human habitat, although I sometimes think government thinks fish are more important than people. I urge readers to read the plan and let our representative, Kathy Lambert, know what you think about it.

Yes, it will affect some developments, but we also need to preserve as much of the developed areas of the Upper Valley as possible. Growth management has limited our ability to grow, so we need to take extra measures to assure we preserve what we have.

We need to push for gravel removal in Upper Valley rivers near downtown areas.

We need to push for maintenance of Upper Valley levees around the towns of North Bend and Snoqualmie.

We need to push for buyouts of flood-prone developments if it will ensure our downtowns do not flood.

We need to make sure that there is a fair balance between fish habitat and human habitat.

We need to push for a funding mechanism for all of the above.

If one of our Upper Valley levees fails, then the entire Upper Valley floor could be affected. Our current levee system doesn't meet new design criteria and in some cases, especially around housing developments such as old Si View and Cedar Village in North Bend, property owners have fenced them off thinking they are part of their personal property. We need to knock down private barriers on levees to assure maintenance vehicles have easy access.

Please take the time to get informed.

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